Women run the social entrepreneurship show
When Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work founding the Greenbelt Movement, the word “pioneering” got thrown around a lot, and often applied to the Nobel laureate’s gender. Maathai was a pioneer, but not because she was woman: if anything, social entrepreneurship involves recognizing the value of activities often denigrated as “women’s work.” This year, the United Nations Environment Programme’s SEED Award continued this fallacy with its creation of a “gender equality” prize: just a quick look at the 34 other social enterprises it recognized with awards this year shows that when it comes to creating businesses around activities that value people and planet while creating a profit, women seem to “get it” much more often than their male counterparts.
Among the efforts recognized with SEED Awards this year:
- A “hybrid solar/gas-fired oven” that will be distributed in Burkina Faso through local women’s cooperatives;
- A effort to support the creation of products made from the Marula tree by women entrepreneurs in Zimbabwe; and
- An aloe farming initiative in Kenya.
These are all in addition to the “gender equality” award winner: a “Solid Waste Management and Community Mobilization Program” in Nepal.
I’m giving UNEP a hard time: this is a fantastic program, and I’m glad they’ve added a prize category that recognizes the element of gender. But a scan through more of the enterprises recognized will demonstrate that women seem to be the ones to recognize the potential for value creation in these settings.
So, am I being a reverse sexist? Call me out… or let us know what else you think.
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Image credit: UNEP